Sometimes a Catalog is Just a Catalog

Sometimes a Catalog is Just a Catalog :

 
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Question: What is the fundamental difference between e-commerce catalog websites such as – HomeDepot, Sears, Amazon, Target, and Walmart and online library catalogs using Horizon, SirsiDynix, Evergreen or III? 
 
Answer: Librarians don’t create HomeDepot, Sears, Amazon, Target, and Walmart catalogs (but they should).
 
Jobs

Working

One of my friends on Publib recently asked me if I thought there were employment opportunities for Librarians in e-commerce and what training would be needed to get a job. 

I think that is a good question to address here with all of the PubLib people.   I am a librarian and I have worked in e-commerce – web design, product development, training, data base management and SEO.  My former employment (after being a public library director) was as a corporate e-commerce manager. I redesigned a 6,000 product e-commerce website, created blogs and alternate websites for its products and within a year had moved it’s US rank in Alexa from about 60,000 up to around 7,000.  I took a year off to complete graduate studies in digital forensics (which I consider directly related to cybrarianship) and recently returned to e-commerce again to manage the databases and organic SEO for an international company with tens of thousands of products specializing in medical equipment and medical supplies.

 
Almost every college, University and technical school has some sort of a degree program now called something like New Media.  The New Media curriculum teaches things like web design, and SEO, and htm*, and programming languages, and social media construction – basically all of this stuff that makes up the web.   But, when all is said and done, what we create in e-commerce is a catalog – a catalog broken down into relevant, related categories with multiple access points and meaningful descriptions – so that the end-user can find what they want and we can get it to them efficiently.  There is a back-end tie to inventory, prices, features, descriptions, shipping, and various temporal factors.
 
traditional librarian

Traditional Librarian

How does that differ in concept from traditional library cataloging?  The argument could be made that traditional libraries do not charge their patrons and the cost / price feature of e-commerce products creates a completely different dynamic.  But, it really doesn’t.  Every professional librarian knows that nothing is free and although there is no direct charge to the patron finding a book in a catalog – the expenses are paid for up-front through Taxes and Tariffs and Fees (oh my!), Taxes and Tariffs and Fees (oh my!), Taxes and Tariffs and Fees (OH MY!).  Every library book has a tangible cost and there is a small markup that accounts for salaries paid to librarians.  The back-end is tied to inventory, prices, features, descriptions, shipping and various temporal factors.

 
The marketing dynamics of library catalogs and e-commerce catalogs may differ since there is no apparent immediacy to having a library catalog pay for itself.  E-commerce is result driven – the only reason to have a catalog is to facilitate sales and educate the consumer.  But, I believe the every librarian now sees how truly dynamic e-commerce web sites that sell books such as Amazon – by the very fact that they do need to see immediate results – have drastically outpaced the big Library catalogs.  So, although the marketing approach may differ, it really, really should not.
 
Soap Box

Soap Box

So, are there employment opportunities for librarians in e-commerce?  Obviously, there is for at least one.  The problem is Corporate America does not know what librarians can do for them. It has been left to me to explain to the company presidents I have  worked with that Libraries are, in fact,  sophisticated and dynamic inventory control systems – that work just like their supply chains.

Library Schools do not even know that they are training people to create catalogs for e-commerce.   But, they should and given the employment growth outlook for traditional librarianship, Library Schools should be touting the ability of their cataloguers to catalog, organize and describe everything.

 
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Best of PubLib 02.08.10

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weekly updateThis week  in  Best of Publib covers the week of February 1st through February 7th 2010. This week includes questions about collection development, thought-provoking discussions about social reference questions , library website development,  and changes to library employment qualifications. Some of the topics we will be reviewing include:

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